Bristol Early Years Research and Development

Bristol Early Years Research
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Practitioner led Mathematical Research 2017

The Bristol Early Years Consortium Maths SLEs have received funding from the Boolean Maths Hub to:

  • Develop specialist subject knowledge of mathematics teaching.
  • Develop pedagogical knowledge of mathematics teaching.
  • Improve the quality of mathematics teaching.
  • Develop confidence and resilience in learning mathematics.

The SLEs as research mentors are using research as a form of CPD to achieve the above aims. 

The research participants have sculpted their own questions for their research and the SLEs will meet with the research participants 6 times a year and have whole research group meetings three times a year. There are 15 teacher/practitioner researchers who work with children from two years old to seven years old.

Bristol Early Years Teachers/ Practitioners Announce their research projects.


Jackie Greenwood -  Children's House Montessori in Clifton


Research Question:   Jackie has recently joined the group and she would like to look at supporting parents with children's maths and to develop open maths rather than direct maths.


She hopes to draw attention to the maths in nursery and home without making it too direct and pressured.  She is keen to prevent children developing an anxiety about maths, and support them to build self-confidence.

 Dawn Chivers  - Compass Point


Research Question: How can adults best support children's mathematical enquiry in their play?


Maths is a priority at Compass Point, and the setting is trying to develop children’s in-depth understanding of maths. There is a need to focus on language development. Dawn has filmed the children and made observations of the children and the practitioners within the setting. As a result she found that during taught sessions the questioning was stronger so she decided that she needed to develop the questioning during free flow play. She has made questionnaires for the staff about how they feel about maths. This showed there was a need to develop confidence so she has adapted the planning to give guidance with open questions and put them up around the classroom to support staff.


Read final report

Emma Davies  - Bannerman Road


Research Question:   

How can we develop children's mark making to support their mathematical graphics?

The children were reluctant to make marks so Emma has been developing this within her setting.   

She has looked at a range of observations and analyses them to look at the maths that was happening in the classroom. 


Read final report


Elaine Davies from Westbury-on-Trym C of E Academy

Research Question:   

What is the adult's role in supporting children's independent mathematical thinking?

Elaine started with the idea that maths in class was too adult directed and wanted it to be more inclusive for all children. She started with 'show me your maths' and a maths floor book. The maths floor book is owned by the children and they can access it and stick into it. So far Elaine has noticed a transformation in the classroom. She now feels that she has a much better understanding of where the children are and there is now a rich mathematical environment but not in a direct way. This freed her to collect data and Elaine is now seeing less prolific children suprise her with their understanding of maths.


Read final report


Anna Crisp -  Dolphin School


Research Question: 

How can we encourage/scaffold maths in free flow?


Anna explored lots of different open-ended resources and changed the provision, introducing clicker counters where the children are surveying each other, sand timers and carpet books for making marks during the input. Anna is keen to continue this once the research project has finished.

Fiona Wasiewicz  - Colston's Primary


Research Question:

How using mastery approach in whole class mathematical sessions affects the engagement level with open ended resources in free flow learning?


Fiona began by looking at whole class teaching. She then looked at the Shanghai Model and has tried using what she terms 'call and response maths'. From the different things Fiona has implemented her maths lessons are now very different. Fiona begins the lesson with an introduction (starter activity), the children then explore a specific maths topic and finally they look at open ended resources as she moves around the class. With the children who are finding it difficult she brings together as a sub group and they are offered support. She is focusing on how maths works rather than what maths is. Her initial observations are that children are now much more engaged. She has collected the assessments from the objective-led-planning and has found that there is much more evidence of children's maths in the classroom with the children being more engaged in maths and they love maths in the environment.

Aggie Bennet - Brunel Field Primary


Research Question:

Can we develop how children see themselves as mathematicians?

- sub question How can this affect their mathematical play?

The aim is to develop children's independent exploration and seeing the maths in what they are doing so they choose to come and explore the math and engage in maths activities.  Aggie is hoping that she can develop the maths culture in the classroom so that children are engaging with maths and choosing independent maths activities. She predicts that this may take longer than the timescale of the research question.


Read final report

Kirsty Damsel  - Redfield Educate Together


Research Question:

How do we get children really engaged in mathematical activities?


Kirsty would like to find ways to open up the maths in the classroom so that the children are choosing to do maths during their independent learning. She has looked at many questions and developed her thinking through reading  and observations within the classroom. She has filmed herself teaching and analysed this. She has now asked the children what maths they would like to learn and will lead a carpet session on their ideas.

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